Claiming one’s self as the most prestigious anything is a bold statement. It’s one that comes with the risk of backlash if expectations are left unmet. It generally takes years of experience, as well as talent and ingenuity, to back up such a claim. At that, the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, “the worlds oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race,” makes the claim unabashedly and accurately.
The race has set the bar for ultra running around the world over its 41 year history. The race started when Gordy Ainsleigh decided to complete the Western States Trail Ride, an event testing the endurance of our equine friends, sans horse. The race has been challenging the limits of runners ever since.
With this year’s race happening in a few days, the anticipation surrounding the event is peaking. This year may be one of the most competitive races to date due to the newly created Ultra-Trail World Tour adding structure to the sport and featuring Western States event as the sole stop in the Americas. With this added distinction, the historically stout international competition gained a few new qualifiers joining the best of American ultra runners.
Pam Smith will be looking to defend her title from last year while Rob Krar will be looking to upgrade his runner-up finish from last year. Last year’s champion Tim Olsen will not be competing and is opting to focus his efforts on the Hard Rock 100 instead. However, there is no shortage of promising runners competing to prevent the usual suspects from being the first to the finish line in Auburn.
Nikki Kimball would love to upgrade her runner-up finish from last year and return to her winning form that has brought her three Western States titles in the past. The top international entrant on the women’s side is Nathalie Mauclair who boasts some recent victories of her own, most notably the Diagonale Des Fous on Réunion Island and a 2:49 marathon personal record.
Krar’s stiffest competition on the men’s side comes from 2012 Western States runner up Ryan Sandes. Where Krar has kept a relatively low profile in early 2014, Sandes has been on a worldwide tear with a victory at the Transgrancanaria and a runner-up finish at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. Spain’s Miguel Heras is also a threat to be reckoned with victories at The North Face Endurance Challenge in the Marin Headlands and a runner-up finish at Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.
Here at Running Warehouse, we are proud to root for one of our very own at this year’s race. Watch out for our Retail Manager, Tera Dube, as she gives the women’s field a run for their money. She has a great shot at a top ten finish and will be followed closely by the crew here in San Luis Obispo! Tera promised us a post-race recap when she returns so keep your eyes open on the blog next week.